Author: Moira J. Moore
Publication date: July 2011
Paperback: 352 pages
Shield Lee Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish are steadfast in their commitment to protect Westsea no matter what disaster – natural or man-made – may befall it. But before our heroes can discern why so many people are suddenly interested in gaining control of Westsea, Lee’s family arrives with some startling news. Long before she was trained as a Shield, she was betrothed as part of an alliance with another merchant clan-and her “fiancé” is determined to see Lee fulfill her contract. . .
Stand alone or series: Book 6 in the ongoing Heroes series
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book: Moira J. Moore’s Hero series is one of my current favorite ongoing fantasy series’ – and it’s a damn shame that these books are so under-read. Understandable, given the hideous covers (more on that below), but a shame. I have loved all of the prior books in this series and could not wait to return for more Lee and Taro.
**WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS FOR BOOKS 1-5 IN THE HEROES SERIES. If you haven’t read books 1-5 and wish to remain unspoiled, you really should look away. Now.**
Shield Dunleavy Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish have been through the ringer ever since being Paired. From discovering disturbing new abilities that Sources and Shields aren’t supposed to have, to rescuing long-lost heirs, to thwarting the machinations of the aristocracy, Lee and Taro have survived a number of taxing trials and tribulations. Finally, somewhat at rest, the Pair find themselves settled in at Westsea, the seaside estate that would have been Taro’s had he not resigned his title to his capable cousin Fiona. Things at Westsea are not going as smoothly as the Pair wishes, however, as the tenants view Fiona as an outsider and seem to have residual claim to Taro as title holder. To add to the political woes, Lee is completely taken aback when her mother and two younger brothers arrive at the manor. Though happy to see her family, both Lee and Taro are dismayed when they learn the reason behind the surprise visit: it turns out that Lee has been betrothed for years, and her intended, a fellow merchant named Marcus Pride, plans on cashing in on the contract as soon as possible. Indignant and stubborn as always, Lee insists that the whole idea of a marriage betrothal is not only completely backwards but inapplicable since she is a member of the Triple S, which voids all contractual obligations. Unfortunately for Lee (and an increasingly frustrated Taro), Marcus and his desperate, prickly merchant father refuse to take no for an answer.
And while Lee’s relationship and binding marriage contract are distracting enough, there’s also the problem that someone is stirring up trouble at Westsea, involving Casters and forbidden magic. Once again, it’s up to Lee and Taro to discover who is behind the attacks, and save the day.
The sixth book in the ongoing Heroes series, Heroes at Odds is another delightful entry in the (mis)adventures of everyone’s favorite Pair. As usual, Lee’s narrative is hilarious and completely unreliable – she’s one of my favorite heroines but she’s also so ridiculously deluded (in an endearing way) when it comes to certain things, especially her opinions of how people perceive of her. I will be completely honest – when I read that this would be a marriage/betrothal drama book, I was more than a little frightened. Lee and Taro have such a wonderful relationship and Lee is so level-headed that any nonsensical love triangle at this point would have felt completely inauthentic. In general, throwing in a new love interest JUST for the drama is a plot device that really, really pisses me off. Thankfully my fears were unfounded because OF COURSE Lee doesn’t take any of that drama and she has no problems telling the Pride family to shove it. It’s not just Lee in the middle of this marital mess, however, as Taro has his own pride to defend, and, effectively, manages to makes things worse. The result is a sort of comedy of errors, which is thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable without being cheesy. Both Lee and Taro remain true to themselves and retain their integrity as characters (no disgusting Love Triangles Of DOOM, thank goodness), and I have mad respect for Ms. Moore for carrying out this potentially ridiculous/infuriating storyline with her signature subtle comic flair. Furthermore, I loved the relationship between Lee and her family in this book, as the Malloroughs have been largely absent from the storyline so far (whereas Taro’s mother, the meddlesome and malicious Dowager has been ever-present since book 2). Lee is such a stoic character, and it’s good to see her being able to trust and lean on someone besides Taro. Her relationship with her mother and brothers is initially awkward, since she’s been living without them since she was a child and sent to the Triple S Academy, and there is some believable tension as no one seems to understand what exactly a Source and Shield do. When they finally begin to truly connect, especially as Taro is welcomed into her family, it’s a heartwarming thing. Lee’s brothers are fantastic additions to the cast, and I certainly hope they become regular fixtures in future books.
The other major storyline in Heroes at Odds involves the title of Westsea and Fiona’s struggles to exert her authority as the holder of the land, despite the support of Taro and Lee. A nearby title holder, the Duke of Kent, challenges Fiona for control of her land. When Fiona refuses, this leads to some conniving, backhanded assaults on Fiona and her tenants – in the notorious form of magic and incantations, aka Casting. I loved that this installment had Lee progressing in her abilities with magic, and questioning the doctrines she and others in the Empire have been fed since birth. Magic is supposedly nonexistent (and pretending to cast is against the law), but clearly this is a pile of bullpucky as Lee finds that magical abilities in fact do exist, and in places like Westsea Casters are treated with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. With the help of local healing woman, Browne, Lee learns a lot more about her latent abilities and this should have some very interesting implications in the next book. I love that Ms. Moore has managed to introduce an entirely new magical system over the course of the series. Shields and Sources and their interplay/codependency is great in and of itself, but this new casting tweak – and the questions of why those in power are so afraid of it – is full of promise.
I only have two complaints for Heroes at Odds. First, this novel seems to be yet another case of “setting the stage”/filler syndrome. While there is progress made in the overall story arc (especially in Taro and Lee’s decisions at the end of the book!), this novel serves as a maneuvering piece for Exciting Things To Come. I have nothing against filler, especially when it is as enjoyable as Heroes at Odds is, but it makes me antsy and hungry for the next book immediately.
The other thing I felt was lacking was the connection between Lee and Taro. Both characters are excellent and in top form as individuals; they are both hilarious and clearly their relationship is rock-solid, but there was a sense of disconnection between the Pair in this book. Perhaps it’s because there were so many outside factors in this book with multiple characters pulling the Pair every which way, and perhaps it was solely due to Lee’s narrative as she has bigger things on her mind than worrying about Taro and his feelings. I’m not sure. I just know that something felt off, and I hope the Pair’s next adventure addresses the void (I have no doubts that it will, since something rather dramatic happens at the end of Heroes at Odds and is complete with more than a few inauspicious omens).
Overall, Heroes at Odds is another solid entry in a fantastic series, and I’m excited to see what happens next. If you haven’t read these books yet, seriously, what’s taking you so long? Hurry up and get on it already. You have no idea what you’re missing.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
I signed the letter “Shield Dunleavy Mallorough” and folded the thick document shut, sealing it with wax and stamping it with the Triple S emblem. More of a report than an actual letter, it was full of evasions, half-truths and omissions. To my regret, I had become adept at hiding inconvenient facts. I’d once prided myself on being honest.
I ran my fingertip over the emblem. Three capital Ss, slightly overlapping, slightly descending in degrees of the horizontal. The first S symbolizing “Source,” a person able to touch the powerful forces behind earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters, and channel them away, creating stability.
The second S for “Shield,” the Source’s partner, able to protect the Source from the effects of channeling, the danger of ripping himself apart and being crushed like an eggshell while he worked.
The third S for “Service,” the organization that housed and raised and trained Sources and Shields, and then watched over them as they performed their duties.
The Source and Shield Service. The Triple S.
You can read the full first chapter online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: I know I do this with EVERY Heroes review, but EGADS the covers for this series are horrendous eyesores. Heroes at Odds is no exception. Once again, just so everyone gets a good eyeful of the ridiculousness that is the cover art, here are all the books from 1-6:
I still think Heroes at Risk is the worst of them all (the glowy magic, Lee’s sweet 1980s nails). The best part about almost all of these covers is how they have absolutely nothing to do with the actual books. When does Taro wield a sword? And why is Lee doing a gypsy-tavern dance with what looks like a magical locket? WHERE does this stuff come from?
Rating: 7 – Very Good
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